Monday, 23 May 2016

Oh let the sun beat down upon my face

Today, I gave my first lecture in a series of six as part of a nuclear physics graduate school.  It's based at the University of Kashmir in Srinagar.  I arrived here after a somewhat gruelling journey from Xinxiang, involving a flight from Zhengzhou to Guangzhou, another to Delhi and a third to Srinagar. The first flight was delayed by quite a while thanks to bad weather in Guangzhou, and when we did finally take off and fly to Guangzhou we ended up circling quite a bit in the storm and ended up with a flight time more than an hour more than it should have been.  I could swear we almost landed quite some time before we actually did -- at least we appeared to be flying very close to the ground.  Oh well, we got there okay and the lateness meant that my 9 hour wait at Guangzhou for the connecting flight was more like 5 hours.  I then got to Srinagar okay and feel good to have given the first lecture.  I was a little uneasy about how it would go, what sort of reaction to expect from the audience, and the extent to which the material would be paced.  In fact with just how busy the last couple of weeks have been,  I needed to spend yesterday preparing rather than joining the students on the excursion, which was a great shame, but I should have a chance later in the week to go for a bit on an explore of the town.

My lectures draw a strand through general ideas of the nuclear mean field, through effective nuclear interactions to applications of time-dependent approaches, including fusion and fission.  Today I talked mostly about some general ideas and then some quite formal stuff -- in particular the derivation of the Hartree-Fock equations.  I'd like to think that at the end of the week I'll bring my somewhat rough notes together and write them up into something more presentable and permanent.  It's nice to be optimistic.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Back from the blackout

I wasn't able to post to the blog at all last week, because I was in China.  More or less all Google services are blocked there and that includes Google's Blogger platform.  I was attending a workshop called International Workshop on Nuclear Dynamics 2016.  I should have realised better in retrospect that it wasn't the best of weeks to go there.  I realised when I said yes that it would be semester time, but I made sure that I would be able to give the online tutorials that were the only part of face-to-face teaching scheduled that week.  I was also over optimistic in thinking that I would have managed to finish the marking of the module for which I give the online tutorials before I went to China.  The assignment requires detailed marking for the feedback to be of any use, it worked well in the past when fewer students opted to take the course.  This year the numbers have exploded and I've struggled somewhat with the consequent marking.  That took up many hours last week.  Then there are other things to do with research grant planning and dealing with the process of appointing a new lecturer.  The fact that the last weeks were busy for that was not something I knew when I said yes to the workshop.

Oh well.  I gave my talk, and I watched many, but not all, of the other talks.  I didn't go on either of the excursions and got to see very little of the city of Xinxiang or the region.  Here, then, is my very minimal photo gallery of the week

From left to right, it's the view out of my hotel room, across the Central Park and to the Xinxiang municipal building.  It's more grand than Guildford Council offices, I think.  In the middle -- well, it's a bit uncouth to laugh at poor English translations when I don't understand a word of Chinese, but it was a particularly surprising thing to find at the dinner buffet.  The picture on the right is a rock on display at Henan Normal University, which organised the workshop.  Inscribed on it is the University's motto, which means something like "Strive for Virtue and Knowledge".

Friday, 29 April 2016

New Fellows for 2016

Today the Royal Society announced the appointment of its 2016 intake of Fellows (who don't have to be fellows).  The announcement is here.  I can't claim to be familiar with many of them, but for the topic of this blog, it's noteworthy that the nuclear engineer Sue Ion is now (Dame) Sue Ion FRS.  A few years ago she was tasked with writing a report about the state of nuclear science in the UK and I think she did a good job in highlighting the parlous state of the support given by the funding councils to nuclear physics in particular (I blogged about it back in 2010)  So, congratulations Sue, along with the other 49 new Fellows.  That's Sue in the picture associated with this post, courtesy of the Royal Society website.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Sir Denys Wilkinson FRS 1922–2016

I heard the news yesterday that Sir Denys Wilkinson died on 22nd April 2016, aged 93.  I can't (since I'm not qualified to) give much of a general obituary here.  They will presumably appear elsewhere in due course, written by those that knew him personally.  Though I met him once or twice at conferences when I was a graduate student, I know Denys more as one of the big names in UK nuclear physics, as well as through his rising up the ranks of research and higher education administration.  He was vice-chancellor of the University of Sussex between 1976 and 1987.  Preceding that, he was professor at the University of Oxford, and the building that used to be called the Nuclear and Particle Physics building during my time there is now called the Denys Wilkinson Building.  

Though I don't suppose he was very active at the Royal Society in recent years, he was a Fellow there, and one of the last remaining fellows whose science background was in nuclear physics.  

Friday, 8 April 2016

Spot The Difference #6

I wonder if readers have ever noticed the similarity between University of Surrey physicist Jim Al-Khalili and Holby City physician Art Malik?


Thursday, 7 April 2016

The kids here still respect the college dean

A friend of mine posted a video of Merle Haggard singing Okie From Muskogee yesterday, on Twitter.  I like the song, and I even once sang it at karaoke when an undergraduate, as I remember.  Only later did I realise that the Twitter post was occasioned by Merle Haggard's death.  Great song, Merle.  RIP.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Signed Refrigerators

In the coffee room of the nuclear physics building here at ANU, there is a tradition that when staff leave, they host a leaving party, filling the refrigerator up with beer, thereby earning the right to sign the fridge door.  The tradition has been going on so long that the oldest fridge door is now mounted for display on the wall.  If you click on the picture you can see an enlarged version, with names and dates.